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Pavlova dancing in "The Dumb Girl of Portici." Photo Courtesy The Library of Congress.

Any ballet lover has seen a blurry film of the incomparable Anna Pavlova dancing "The Dying Swan," but there isn't much other footage out there to attest to the great ballerina's talent. That's all about to change. On February 6, the Library of Congress and Milestone Films are releasing the newly restored version of Lois Weber's 1916 film The Dumb Girl of Portici on DVD and Blu-ray, starring none other than Pavlova.



Weber was a pioneer filmmaker, directing an estimated 135 silent films over the course of her life. She died in 1939 at age 60. Though women couldn't yet vote, they thrived in the movie industry. And, as New York Times critic Manohla Dargis puts it, "Weber thrived above all others... yet, like most female directors of that era, she faded into obscurity." The Dumb Girl of Portici was one of Universal's most expensive films to date, featuring an enormous cast and ambitious sets. Weber adapted the film from Daniel Auber's 1829 opera La Muette de Portici, which Pavlova had starred in on stage with the Boston Opera Company. The opera tells the story of Fenella, a mute (dumb was a contemporary synonym) fisher-girl living during the Spanish occupation of Naples in the mid-17th century, who is seduced and abandoned by a Spanish nobleman.

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Photo via Miami City Ballet on Instagram.

For dancers, every day is like Halloween. You don't have to wait until October to try on new personas and elaborate costumes. But that certainly didn't stop the ballet world from going full out yesterday. We rounded up some of our favorites across Instagram to help draw the *spooky* holiday spirit out for one more day.

Matthew Bourne's New Adventure's production of The Red Shoes is nearing its final performances at New York City Center this weekend. American Ballet Theatre's Marcelo Gomes is guest-starring in the production as Julian Craster, the composer boyfriend to protagonist Victoria Page. But for Halloween, Marcelo donned the infamous red shoes himself to dress as the leading ingenue.


Dance Theater of Harlem's Ingrid Silva (and Pointe's June/July cover star) dressed as a unicorn alongside her dog, Frida Kahlo.

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Anna Pavlova may be best known for someone else's choreographic work (Michel Fokine's The Dying Swan), but she, too, was a choreographer. Similar to the famous solo, Pavlova's dances often emulated nature—like in Dragonfly and Californian Poppy. In this clip of the latter, circa 1916, Pavlova's “poppy" flutters through space on a string of bourrées. She uses the weight of her port de bras and épaulement as impetus for each swirl. Blossoming, joyous, and alive, Pavlova's grace also reflects a petal's delicate fragility.

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“With an inner voice the river ran,

Adown it floated a dying swan…"

-From The Dying Swan (1830) by Lord Alfred Tennyson

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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Jerome Robbins Dance Division has an astonishing collection of dance videos—more than 24,000 films, including hundreds of hours of ballet footage. Recently the library has begun digitizing its remarkable archives, and have even made some of those digitized films available online to the offsite public.

One of the most extraordinary videos in the public collection is a series of clips of Anna Pavlova from the 1916 feature film The Dumb Girl of Portici. In some of the movie's dance sequences, Pavlova—then 35, and still at the height of her powers—displays the otherworldly lightness that made her an international star. But she also dances an earthy, vivacious Tarantella on the beach—a very different perspective on a ballet beauty. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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